PhD Studentship: Consumption, commerce and custom: historical and archaeological evidence for the social, cultural and economic position of salmon in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, c.1400-c.1800

University of the Highlands and Islands - Centre for History

Location: Dornoch
Funding for: UK, EU & International students
Funding amount: UK/EU fees & stipend (RCUK rate) for 42 months

Closes: 8th May 2017, 12pm (UK time)

Combining history and archaeology, this studentship will, through documentary, fieldwork and laboratory-based evidence, bring to light the long-term position - in terms of consumption, commerce and customs - of the salmon in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. The studentship will thus provide definitive pre-1800 historical background to the species’ continued prominence today in terms of the region’s tourism and aquaculture.

The successful candidate will:

  • following a ‘coastal history’ approach, identify techniques of salmon fishing, access to salmon, and the social and ecological position of the species in Highlands and Islands’ communities in the three to four centuries prior to c. 1800
  • bring to light - using archival documents, fishtrap, fish bone and species identification techniques - the degree of importance and status of salmon in the region’s diet prior to c. 1800.

‘Omega 3 fatty acids’ do not feature directly in Gaelic mythology. Nevertheless, the legend of Fionn Mac Cumhaill depicts the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’, the flesh of which, when consumed, would transmit wisdom and other powers. Pictish stones depicting salmon are, as of yet, not fully understood yet have remained a prominent feature of the Highlands and Islands landscape ever since. Further afield, indigenous peoples from as far apart as the Pacific North West, northern Japan and Siberia, have enacted complex rituals to mark the importance of their salmon. All of this suggests just how common it has been to seek commercial, nutritional and, indeed, spiritual value from what is often referred to in Scotland as the ‘king of fish’.

Yet, despite this, its high visibility and popularity on restaurant menus today and its capture by anglers poised by riverbanks and lochsides across the region, the position of the Atlantic salmon in the history of the north and west of Scotland is yet to be identified and explained satisfactorily.

Focused on the theme ‘Highland Tastes: Scottish food and drink history’, public engagement will be integral to the studentship. Highlands and Islands Enterprise will take an advisory role in supporting the community and 'impact' oriented elements of the project, which will involve the studentship holder assisting with schools visits to salmon farms, hosting a blog, besides the compiling of an exhibition and of webinars and public lectures around the region (available to attend by video-conference, with full public access).

To apply:

Click on the “Apply” button below to download the application form and guidance and return to:

Informal project specific enquiries can be made to:

Funding notes:

This studentship is funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

The studentship covers fees at the Home/EU rate only, plus a stipend at the RCUK level, for a total of 42 months (including writing-up).

PLEASE NOTE: Funding is available for students worldwide, however non UK/EU students will be liable for the difference between home/EU and international fees.

Students must be domiciled in the Highlands and Islands transition region during the course of their study to be eligible for funding.

Applicants must possess a minimum of an Honours degree at 2:1 and/or a Masters Degree (or International equivalent) in a relevant subject.

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